Cumberland County aiming to turn libraries into virtual learning centers for children of county employees

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Cumberland County officials want to turn six libraries into virtual learning centers for about 160 children of county employees.

The proposal will be discussed at Monday’s Cumberland County Board of Commissioners Meeting.

If approved, the county wants the centers to open the week of Oct. 12.

One Cumberland County mom says this plan is unfair to other families and taxpayers.

As a working mom of young children, she says online learning has been a struggle.

She also says she lives in a rural area and is having connectivity issues with hotspots.

“What’s our option, are they going to provide care for us too?” Krista Smith said. “Catering to the county employees simply because they’re county employees, what about the other non-county employees that are also taxpayers?”

Library Board of Trustees Vice Chair Irene Grimes is also not happy with this plan.

“One of the main concerns is if it’s not safe enough to open schools, how is it safe to congregate that many children at just a different location?” Grimes said.

She says library staff were not given an option to opt out of the plan if it’s approved.

She also worries about who will be responsible for taking care of the children throughout the day.

“Library staff are not trained in childcare or any sort of child related issues,” Grimes said.

The county manager presented this idea because she says some county employees are missing work to be home with their children, which is starting to impact the county’s ability to provide mandated services.

The school district says they’ve agreed to have school employees help out at the libraries when they’re able to, but this is ultimately the county’s responsibility to manage if approved.

Cumberland County Schools will remain entirely virtual until at least January.

We’ve requested an interview with county officials.

The county school board emailed additional details about the plan:

During the meeting, the board will consider a memorandum of agreement between Cumberland County and the Cumberland County Board of Education for support of remote learning facilities at Cumberland County Public Library locations for the school-age children of county employees.

In August, County Manager Amy Cannon presented to commissioners the idea of establishing virtual learning centers at public libraries to address the impact of employees unable to report to work because they are at home with their school-age children.

Of the 126 employees who applied for the program, 80% work at either the Department of Social Services, the Public Health Department, the Sheriff’s Office, Child Support, Animal Control, or Emergency Services.

“The County continues to deal with the unprecedented challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic presents for the fulfillment of our mission to provide quality services to our citizens while being fiscally responsible,” Cannon said in her agenda memo to the board. “New federal legislation enacts emergency leave provisions that provide for employment security for employees but place the County as an employer at a tremendous deficit. This struggle has begun to impact our ability to provide basic, core, and mandated services.”

The County received applications for approximately 160 children and hopes to open the centers the week of Oct. 12. Six of the eight public libraries will be used: Headquarters, Cliffdale, Bordeaux, East Regional, North Regional, and Hope Mills.

Under the agreement, Cumberland County Schools will provide lunches and snacks for the children and assign staff members to assist with the operations of the sites.

Cumberland County School board email

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